Weighing In on the Lightweights

If all gun salesmen were required to spend some time on the range as instructors, I think what they offer to customers and tell them about guns would be different. For the past several years, because of the increased interest in concealed carry, everyone from the manufacturers on down have been pushing small, lightweight guns to first time gun owners. SHAME ON US!

I know the arguments:   “Any gun is better than no gun”, “It doesn’t do any good to have a gun you can’t shoot”, “What about concealing in the summertime when you wear lightweight clothes?”, etc., etc. The problem with those arguments is they work only when you’re talking about carrying a gun. But they fall apart quickly if you ever have to actually use your gun.

Common lightweight .380 handguns
Some Common Lightweight .380 Handguns

We see all of the guns shown above, as well as others that are similar, in our CHL classes. We sell some of them in our store. But we are careful to provide other options to our customers and to let them know of the disadvantages as well as the advantages.  These are all good guns, but they’re not necessarily good guns for primary concealed carry for relative inexperienced shooters.

The problems we see in the classes is only a small part of what we would expect to see on the street should, God forbid, one of our clients actually have to defend themselves. Here is what they’re not told at the Gun Shows or the Big Box gun stores:

  1. That small gun kicks like an SOB.
  2. It’s really hard to hold onto when you’re shooting it.
  3. If you’re not holding on tight and have kept your gun really clean and are shooting good factory ammunition, you may be shooting a jam-a-matic.
  4. That short barrel means a short sight radius (less accuracy), less stability for your bullets (less accuracy), less muzzle velocity (less power).
  5. Speaking of power, the .380 ACP cartridge is way down the scale in stopping power against a determined aggressor.
  6. Oh, and how many of those small, underpowered bullets does it hold?  Not many, usually 5 or 6.

If you’re a strong shooter, a very good shot, very cool under pressure, by all means carry one of these small .380s–as a backup gun.

Let me get to the bottom line here. I’m an experienced shooter and it is rare that I don’t hit what I’m aiming at. I’m a war veteran who has been shot at a number of times and I have learned to be calm and collected under pressure. I practice with my firearm regularly. You could say I’m somewhere near the top of the professional heap when it comes to concealed carry. And I wouldn’t dream on carrying a small .380 handgun for my personal protection or the personal protection of my loved ones.

But what about someone who just can’t handle a bigger caliber?  Get a PMR-30 with 30 rounds of .22 Magnum. Okay, I know they’re hard to get and hard to conceal, so let’s back off that a bit. One option might be a small, steel-frame (not lightweight) revolver in .327 Magnum. That’s a kick-ass round, with pretty much the same ballistics as a .357 Magnum, but the .327 revolvers carry 6 rounds and sometimes more and they’ve got enough weight to absorb some of the recoil.

Most small, lightweight .380 Semi-Automatics or even lightweight .38 Special revolvers have more felt recoil than most 9mms with a little size to them. Seriously. Go shoot some guns. You may find that a 9mm S&W M&P is a whole lot easier to handle than one of those small .380s.  There are some nice 9mms that hold 9, 10 or 12 rounds and are very concealable. The slim ones that are pretty popular are Ruger LC9, M&P Shield, Springfield XDs, and Berretta Nano. Bersa’s BP9CC and the Taurus PT-111 are a couple more favorites.

If you’re really serious about carrying a gun that might save your life, you may have to make some wardrobe changes. Our instructors, who come in all sizes, all carry big guns, usually in IWB (inside the waistband) holsters, but sometimes OWB (outside the waistband). We also carry spare magazines. In the unlikely event that we ever have to use our gun, we want to be the one standing, not the one who couldn’t hit the target, or whose gun jammed, or who shot until they ran out of ammo, but didn’t stop their aggressor.

The hunting regulations in every state I know of specifies a minimum caliber that can be used to hunt deer. They do this because they don’t want a lot of wounded deer running around. The deer should be harvested with a minimum amount of suffering. But, if you wound a deer, the worst case is you may lose the deer or you may have to track it to the location it finally stopped running. If you wound a bear, however, that bear is coming after you. In society, when preparing to defend yourself against one of the predators in society, you don’t know if that predator is going to be like a deer or like a bear. It’s best to be prepared to stop a threat that is big, hopped up on drugs or adrenalin, and mean as a snake.

Author: David Freeman

Professional dedicated to training and equipping people to live safely in a dangerous world.

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